Athletes in the Pros

Their playing days over, many Hornets are adapting their game to the sideline

Darren Arbet

    Darren Arbet

Whether it’s LeBron James running a fast break or Aaron Rodgers scrambling out of the pocket and throwing a touchdown pass, great athletes are masters at improvisation.

And oftentimes, when their playing days are over, the improvising begins anew. Many of Sac State’s finest athletes turned to coaching.

“My plan was for my playing days to never be done,” jokes former Sac State quarterback Aaron Garcia ’94 (Physical Education), who is a rookie head coach for the Las Vegas Outlaws of the Arena Football League after a 19-year playing career. “I literally have to stop myself from picking up the football. It’s hard.”

As the physical ability to compete diminishes, the passion often remains as strong as ever. Coaching gives former athletes an intimate experience with the game, the players and the competition. But it’s not always love at first whistle.

“My first day, I hated it,” says Darren Arbet ’85 (Criminal Justice), whose San Jose SaberCats have won three Arena Bowl titles under his guidance. “I never had aspirations to be a coach. But I fell in love with it and now every day is consumed with coaching.”

Atlee Frechette '07

    Atlee Frechette '07

“My first year coaching was tough, just not being able to play the game,” says former Hornet volleyball standout Atlee Frechette ’07 (Photography), who has led Menlo College to conference titles in her first two years as head volleyball coach.

But an athlete’s ability to multi-task, communicate and think like a player softens a sometimes-rocky road.

Roots in the game

When players walk away from their respective sports, they take with them more than just fond memories. Student athletes must learn to balance academics with athletics, a social life and other commitments. It’s perfect preparation for the coaching profession.

“People think student-athletes get a lot of privileges and they do, but they work for all of them,” says Lori Perez ’05 (Communication Studies), MS ’11 (Recreation Administration), who was hired as Sac State’s softball coach in 2013. “It’s a 12-hour day. You’re up at 6:30, in class in the morning, practicing for three to four hours and then going to study hall in the evening. It teaches you a lot about time management and hard work.”

Aaron Garcia

 Aaron Garcia

Sac State groomed Perez as a player, and then a coach. She still holds the school record for career assists and was a starter on the team that beat then-No. 1 UCLA in 2000—the highlight of her playing career.

The company you keep

By today’s standards, Greg Knapp ’86 (Communication Studies) didn’t put up gaudy numbers when he wore the green and gold. But Knapp earned the respect of the late Coach Bob Mattos, who brought him on as a Hornet assistant once his playing days were over.

Knapp spent the past two seasons working with Peyton Manning as the Denver Broncos’ quarterbacks coach, the latest stop in a 20-year NFL coaching career.

“I could see Greg being a coach, even back then,” says Arbet.

Two of Knapp’s teammates—offensive lineman Clancy Barone ’92 (Recreation Administration) and defensive end Arbet—are now coaching pro football. Barone, who was Arbet’s roommate at Sac State, is now the Broncos’ offensive line coach.

Lori Perez

    Lori (Meixner) Perez '05

The player as coach

Knapp left a major impression on Garcia. Knapp tutored Garcia, helping him develop physical skills, but also traits that he is taking into his own coaching career.

“Coach Knapp really showed me how to be a professional, how to network and how to gain knowledge from other coaches,” Garcia says. “He always had the goal to move up in the coaching ranks and he’s one of the best quarterback coaches out there.”

After earning his degree, Garcia pursued his pro football dream and found his niche in the Arena League. He threw for 62,159 yards and an all-time record 1,336 touchdowns in his career before accepting an offer by owner, and Motley Crue lead singer, Vince Neil to coach in Las Vegas.

“A lot of coaches gave me the opportunity to be a coach as I was playing,” says Garcia. “I’ve been using relationships that I have around the league.”

Following in the footsteps of legends

Sac State coaching fixtures—and former Hornet athletes themselves—Bob Mattos ’65 (Physical Education) and Debby Colberg ’70, MA ’78 (Physical Education), inspired countless coaches in their decades on campus.

Mattos posted a career record of 84-73-2 and was revered in the community. He remained close with the program in retirement and influenced many coaching careers.

After injury derailed his playing career, Arbet reluctantly joined Mattos’ staff at the urging of assistant coach Rick Plumbtree ’79 (Physical Education).

“Coach Mattos and I literally put together a resume in his office and his secretary typed it up,” says Arbet, who is now a part-owner of the SaberCats. “I learned early on in coaching that you have to get to work early and stay late.”

The coaching state of mind

Colberg built a remarkable 828-292 record and garnered numerous honors throughout her career, including being named NCAA Coach of the Year in 1989. She was instrumental in guiding many players who went on to coach at the college level, including Sharon Clark, Rose Burke and Frechette.

Colberg did her best to maintain a Zen-like quality on the Sac State sideline throughout her 31 years (1976-2007), Frechette says. And that calm demeanor is one of the traits Frechette, who played professional volleyball in Spain for two years before going into coaching, tries to embody when she’s coaching.

“Composure is a big part of a team being able to stay consistent on the court and I try to help my team understand that.”

Hornets on the sidelines

Name

Sport

Sac State years

Now coaching

Darren Arbet

Football

'82-'85

San Jose Sabercats (Head Coach)

Clancy Barone

Football

'85-'86

Denver Broncos (Offensive Line)

Aaron Garcia

Football

'92-'93

Las Vegas Outlaws (Head Coach)

Greg Knapp

Football

'82-'85

Denver Broncos (Quaterbacks)

Jon Osterhout

Football

'95-'99

American River Community College (Head Coach)

Cesar Placencia

Soccer

'90

Consumes River Community College (Women's Head Coach)

Ron Preble

Soccer

'93

Consumes River Community College (Men's Head Coach)

Rose Burke

Volleyball

'05-'08

Virginia State (Head Coach)

Sharon Clark

Volleyball

'86-''89

Butler (Head Coach)

Ruben Volta

Volleyball

'93-'95

Sac State (Head Coach)

Atlee (Hubbard) Frechette

Volleyball

'04-'06

Menlo College (Head Coach)

Lori (Meixner) Perez

Softball

'99-'02

Sac State (Head Coach)

Return to Sac State Magazine